Gillian Turner loved the coffee shop. She had loved it for as long as she could remember. Everyday when she walked in to begin another day, she just smiled. The shop smelled of all the best Colombian coffees, and had a décor to die for. The building had lost the kitchen and quite a bit of the main area in a fire five years ago, and the chance for a total revision had arisen. A newer, better kitchen had been out in, and was the envy of many London restaurants. A new counter was put in, filled with marbles. Actors, directors, producers, and others who loved the shop donated the marbles – in bulk. Black and white tiles decorated the floors and wooden paneling on the walls finished the building off.
The new shop was even more popular than the old, opened by Gillian's father in the sixties. Located in the heart of London's theater district, it was a cozy place where actors could come after practice, critics could come to write their reviews and producers could come to bargain. It was rumored that Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice had discussed Evita over coffee at that very shop. Of course, that was during Gillian's cradle days, so she knew very little about it. Her father did not flaunt whatever had conspired there. Nevertheless, the table was awarded a place of honor, and many came just to see the landmark.
Soon after the fire, Gillian's father had died from a heart attack. Gillian had taken over the family business, fresh out of college. She loved her job almost as much as the shop itself.
Gillian looked up from the latte she was intently brewing to see Mark Hester standing in the doorway. No-one really looked up. Everyone was used to loud greetings at the shop, weather they were for Gillian herself or someone else.
She grinned at him, finishing of the latte. "Where have you been mister?" she asked, her voice full of laughter. Mark was her current "love interest" and also a crime scene investigator for Scotland Yard.
"Cases, Gilly darling. So many cases." He took a seat at the counter, and studied the menu behind Gillian.
"Your latte, Mr. Jenkins," Gillian said, handing the frothing beverage to the old man sitting next to Mark. Jenkins was an old theater man, who hung around all the new shows giving ideas to the actors and crew members.
"Ah, thank-yew dearie."
"Oh, Gilly, guess who I saw on the way over!"
"Gillian dah-ling!" An attractive and loud woman threw open the door of the coffee shop, the bells rattling uncontrollably. People glance up, surprised by this greeting.
"Evie!" Gillian ran from behind the counter to meet her best friend, Evie Furlong. "God, I haven't seen you for weeks, where have you been?"
"I have one word for you, Gill. Phantom."
The expression of joy and excitement on Gillian's face was priceless. "Oh Evie! You got the part!" Evie had been trying out for the part of Christine Daee in The Phantom of the Opera. It was being revived in London for a limited time.
"Yup. I'm famished darling."
"Of course." Gillian returned to the counter. "What would you like? It's on the house."
"Hey!" Mark glance at Gillian expectantly.
"Mark, if you get a leading role in a Webber play I'll give you anything in the shop free for a week." Gillian said, as Evie indicated that she wanted her usual – a double espresso.
"If I solve a case?"
Gillian rolled her eyes and handed Evie the espresso, who in turn started into it as if she hadn't been eating for a year.
"I 'ave a case for you, Mark," Mr. Jenkins said, looking over at the trio. "I don't know if you 'ave 'eard 'bout that murdered runnin' lose all over. I 'eard Scotland Yard was in a terrible trouble."
"Really?" Gillian asked, leaning in.
"Aye lass. 'E's been eludin' everyone. No-one knows w'en 'e'll strike 'gain."
"Yeah, I've heard about him. Haven't gotten the case down to my department yet. The big dogs are taking a whack at it first."
"Aye. Seems like a toug' case. T'ey're tryin' to keep the press out of everythin'. Press messed up everythin' ya know?"
"Yeah." There was a silent pause at the counter for the late Princess Diana, who had died – in theory – due to over zealous paparazzi.
"Enough of this!" Mark exclaimed. "Evie, this deserves celebration. Come on Gilly. Take off the rest of the day and come with us."
Gillian nodded. Truth be told, she was ready to take the day off. "I'll go get Kate to take over the counter."
"W'ere is Katie?" Mr. Jenkins asked curiously.
Gillian shrugged. "Back room, probably. I'll be right back." She turned and opened the door to the back room. She couldn't believe what she saw. "Oh My God! Mark, get in here!"